Basics of Online Reputation Management

As much time and effort that marketers put into improving visibility within search results, not all search engine ranking pages (SERPs) are good.

Increasing numbers of companies are experiencing the sharp edge of the sword from disgruntled employees or customers taking advantage of the amazingly simplistic process of publishing content to the web.

Because these references occur within the search results, many companies perceive search engine reputation management as a SEO problem. But displacing negative search results only treats the symptoms of the problem. It’s not a cure.

While other companies see tarnished brand issues as more of a public relations issue, it’s important to understand that sometimes it’s the PR firm that is at the root of the problem.

Negative search results are not limited to standard search engines either. Blog search engines, video sites like YouTube, social news such as Digg and news search can be affected as well.

Negative commentary can have a significant impact on brands that companies have spent years and immense resources to build. It pays to protect those brands where ever consumers can interact with them.

There are three fundamental concepts to master when dealing with search engine reputation management: Monitor, Optimize and Engage.

What to monitor?

  • Brands
  • Products
  • Company
  • Key Executives

Include modifiers: “sucks”, “scam”.

Types of content to monitor include: News Search, Social Media/Tags, Standard Search Results, Blogs and Forums.

Where to Monitor

  • Google Alerts – google.com/alerts
  • Yahoo Alerts – alerts.yahoo.com
  • RSS feed subscriptions to search results Technorati, Yahoo & Google News, BlogPulse
  • Social Media via tags: tagbulb.com, tagfetch.com, keotag.com

Optimizing is most effective as a preventive measure rather than a reactive measure. However, reactive optimization for displacing negative search results is what most online reputation management services focus on. It leaves the company chasing after the various dissenters and does not put the brand in a position of control.

Treat the Symptoms

Companies that want to protect their brand visibility on the web would do well to make optimizing their brand content a best practice. Optimizing all digital communications including: PR, marketing, SEO, HR, investor relations and related electronic content that is publicly available on the web as well as social media: text, images, audio, video will produce more branded content in the SERPs. Doing so doesn’t necessarily put the brand in control, but it’s a much better situation than scrambling after the fact.

Engage & Address the Cause

Once a negative mention has been identified, here are a few basic steps in dealing with it:

  • Research the situation – is there merit?
  • If not, provide the facts and ask for corrections
  • If yes, then offer to discuss
  • Be ready to respond with your own blog
  • Be honest, be transparent and LISTEN

Results can be a anything from a positive turn around to a loyal brand evangelist.

Implementing a proactive monitoring campaign provides insight into the kinds of content interactions audiences are having with your brand. When identified and qualified, situations need to be addressed directly. At the same time, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and companies need to implement holistic brand content optimization as a best practice. The more branded content in the search results, the more diluted any negative brand content will be.

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